Shutdown Crisis Averted…For Now
On Thursday, October 7th, 2017, Congress reached an agreement to extend current government funding levels until midnight on December 22, 2017. President Trump signed the stopgap measure on Friday.
Lawmakers have said this funding extension will give the budget writers time to negotiate the specifics of the appropriations bills needed to fund the government through the rest of the fiscal year. In our current tribal political environment, that seems easier said then done.
For starters, Republican leadership has proposed to fund defense spending at $54 billion above spending caps and non-defense spending at $34 billion above spending caps in 2018. However, Democrats are demanding spending parity between defense and non-defense spending, and are seeking to have non-defense spending set at $54 billion above spending caps. With the proposed tax cuts touted by Congressional Republicans, spending parity will become a contentious issues for the deficit-hawks who will be wary of spending levels that contribute to the overall national debt.
If that wasn’t a big enough hurdle to overcome, Democrats are also asking that President Obama’s protections for Dreamers known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA be codified into law. President Trump has proposed negotiating over immigration reform separately, and including broader provisions such as funding for his promised border wall. Democrats are also threatening not to sign a bill that does not include a long-term CHIP authorization, and measures to stabilize the health markets.
These policy differences are significant and are stoking fears of an impending shutdown.
The last time the government shutdown was in 2013, which resulted in federal workers being furloughed [without pay], national parks and monuments to be closed, and a significant scale back of government services such as; cutting social security checks, and website downtime for employers trying to verify the legal work status of new employees through E-Verify, among others.
If the government were to shutdown this year, approximately 40% of the federal [non-excepted] workforce would be sent home without pay right before the holidays due to a lapse in appropriations. Looking at shutdown plans from 2015, we can see that agencies planning to furlough 90% or more of their workforces include: NLRB, NSF, NASA, FERC, HUD, EEOC, EPA, Education, SEC, and FEC. The Department of Labor plans to furlough approximately 82% of its workforce. Both DoD and HHS plan to furlough approximately 50% of their workforces. Excepted employees, or those performing work which by law, may be continued to be performed during a lapse of appropriations (i.e. emergency services, law enforcement, etc.), will remain on the job.
In their 2015 Furlough Guidance, the Office of Personnel Management has stated; Federal retiree’s will continue to receive their retirement annuity’s through a government shutdown. Additionally, Federal Employee’s Health Benefits (FEHB) Program participants coverage will not be affected, even though an agency fails to make their premium payments on time.
Employees who are excepted from furlough will be paid for the work performed during the shutdown period after the Government re-opens. Congress will determine if non-excepted worker’s furloughed will receive pay for the shutdown period. Traditionally, Congress has issued back-pay to those employees.